• Creating Content IT Executives Find Useful

    Only half of IT decision makers consider the content they receive from the vendor community of any use to them. Why is that? And—an even better question—how do you make sure that your content beats those odds?

    If you chat with an IT executive, and you ask him or her what sort of content he finds useful when researching a new project or purchase, that executive will generally mention three things:

    1. The information has to be credible. In other words, it has to be derived from information sources that are recognizable, verifiable and respected.
    2. The information you’re providing has to be relevant. More on this in a moment
    3. The information has to be accessible. In other words, if your prospective buyers can’t find it quickly and easily, it doesn’t matter how relevant and credible it is; it’s just not going to do them any good.

    Of these three concerns, the second is the most pivotal. After all, if an IT decision maker isn’t interested in the topic you’re discussing, then he’s really not going to care whether he can locate the information or trust its source. So the more closely your marketing content is aligned with the immediate needs, concerns and perspectives of your prospects, the more interested they will be in that content and its underlying message.

    In our experience, the chief reason so many IT buyers are turned off by vendor content is because the material is presented from the vendor’s point of view—not the IT buyer’s. This is a very easy sort of error for a marketing department to fall into. Companies, like people, get caught up in their own dealings and end up seeing the world through their own prism. It may be a perfectly valid viewpoint, but it tends to reflect the vendor’s priorities—not the buyer’s.

    Instead, savvy tech marketers need to develop content that deliberately and explicitly addresses the buyer’s viewpoint. Here’re a few tips for ensuring that your content stays on track:

    Address the audience you want to target

    Relevant content is as specific to the targeted group of IT buyers as possible. For example, if your target is small and medium-size business owners and their top IT managers, then your content should explicitly address SMB concerns. Attempting to produce a piece that addresses both enterprises and SMBs is far from ideal, since their perspectives are so different. For instance, it’s often much easier for SMBs to outsource certain services, since they have smaller IT departments and fewer legacy systems in place. Enterprises, on the other hand, often have much higher thresholds for governance, regulatory and security requirements that have to be met.

    Tap your sales force and other customer-facing employees for topical ideas

    How do you know what your buyers are thinking? How do you know what’s most important to them right now? Of course there are various resources you can leverage to help you answer these questions, including analyst research, industry conferences and publication Web sites. And you could always commission some research yourself.

    But there is another first-rate source at your immediate disposal that often goes untapped. Your own sales force and customer support personnel usually have an excellent view into what your target market is thinking. A few informal discussions with your sales people and field engineers can lead to a wealth of insight on the issues of greatest import to your prospects and how to address them.

    Lead with the benefit that matters most to the buyer

    The most important question you need to answer with any piece of marketing content is why the product, service or technology your promoting is important to the buyer. In other words, what business benefits will the buyer receive from your offering—and what business risks will the buyer incur if he fails to resolve the issues that your offering addresses? If these questions are well answered, then you’re alerting the buyer to information that he needs to know, and your content’s relevancy goes way up.

    Speak to key issues faced by the prospect

    What is the current business environment like for your target buyer? What challenges does it pose, and what opportunities does it represent? How do these impact an IT decision maker day to day? Speaking to these questions let’s you put your message in a context that really matters to your prospect.

    Target the buyer’s industry and technology environment

    General business issues play out differently for different industries, which have their own particular requirements. Consider the different regulatory and reporting structures for retail vs. healthcare, for instance. Likewise, different sectors built out their infrastructures at different times, employing different technologies. You may have solutions that fit a variety of these environments, but the IT decision makers who’s attention you’re seeking will find your content most relevant if it addresses their particular environment as specifically as possible. Wherever possible, developing unique content for the different verticals and operating environments is the way to go.

    Provide relevant data and analysis they can’t easily get someplace else

    This is a great way to provide unique value that will engage your audience. Commissioning an analyst or research firm is one way to get this kind of information. It gives your report third-party credibility and the opportunity to collect data that’s specific to your target market.

    Make sure all of the above is reflected throughout the piece—starting with the title

    Now that you’ve gone to all the trouble to create content that’s highly relevant to your target buyers, make sure you bring it to their attention. The title, abstract and URL should all reflect who the piece is aimed at and why it matters to them.

    There are other important ways to make your content appealing and useful to your prospects, and I’ll explore some of those in my next posting. But consistently applying the above steps is the starting point. If your content can pass the buyer-perspective litmus test, then you’ve already taken a huge step towards content that will attract and engage your target audience.

    Responsible for UBM TechWeb’s client-driven content development, Elliot Kass works with hundreds of clients across the high-tech spectrum to craft messages and deliver information for diverse audiences of technology and business professionals.

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